Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Face-Lift 1207

Guess the Plot

If Only You Knew

1. The autobiography of a thermometer that has seen far too many openings.

2. Ostracized for throwing up on a basketball player, Melissa vows to get revenge on all of her high school classmates by creating an app that they must all pay for.

3. I could tell you things. Things so secret you’d simply lie down on the floor and die. But I’m not the kind to talk. When people tell me a secret, you can bet the farm it’ll go to the grave with me. By the way… could you loosen these ropes a bit? They’re cutting off my circulation. Wait… what’re you doing with that branding iron? No, wait. I’ll talk. I’ll tell you anything you wanna know. All you gotta do is ask. I don’t hold back. I say tell everyone everything, and it’ll all work out in the end. We’re all friends here, right? Wait…

4. In a peer-review, only you came through
But don’t misconstrue the Phillips-head screw
And why only you can get cheese fondue
To pass on through to the Kung Fu kazoo
Only me and you… and a dog named Boo.
If only you knew how new was the gnu
Then you, too, could chew the glue with a shrew.
In Kalamazoo, I threw him a shoe,
But Boo’s in a stew, and mooed in my brew.

5. If only Dolly the sheep knew how to spell. Then she could have effectively pointed out the murderer of nearly half the herd. With only rams left, it was up to Dolly and her littermate, Polly, to solve the crime. With blood pouring out of her entrails, Dolly tried to spell ewe, but...

6. ...what EE has used his slush manuscripts for. Will they continue to get stacked around his bathroom and thrust into his fireplace, or will he find one that tickles his fancy? Not recommended for readers with moral codes, or weak stomachs. 

Original Version

Seventeen-year-old Melissa Stratten’s classmates won’t stop whispering about the time she puked on a senior basketball player.

[Pssst! Remember the time Melissa Stratten puked on the basketball player?
Yeah. What was that, cafeteria chili?
I think it was hot dogs and beans.
I bet he was sorry he wore white pants that day.
Anyway, what else you wanna whisper about?
Nothing, let's keep whispering about this pivotal, overriding event in our school's history.]

So when her best friend Jack suggests they create an app based on school rumors, an ostracized Melissa desperately wants revenge on her classmates. [This is the plot of Carrie, except instead of killing people and burning down the school she creates an app.] "Chaos" anonymously gives everyone at school access to the hottest dirt. [She was thrilled with her accomplishment until she installed the app on her iPhone and discovered 90% of it was devoted to the time she puked on the basketball player.] Every student’s personal secrets are spun into one giant microblog; [Opposite of giant microblog: tiny megablog.] Chaos is school gossip taken to the extreme. Melissa wants Chaos to be so epic students will pay for it, and she can put her coding experience on college applications. [Among my passions and extracurricular activities are basketball and competitive eating. I also wrote the code for an app that allowed me to exact revenge on all my classmates.]

Then Melissa finds out Jack wants to use Chaos to publish a sex tape of a teacher with a student. If she goes along with Jack, the student’s reputation will be ruined -- just like Melissa’s. [Actually, the student's reputation will be enhanced if the teacher was Ms. Sommers. Or that hunky chemistry teacher.]

But, the more Melissa pushes Jack to kill Chaos, the more paranoid and threatening he becomes, planting drugs in her locker and pinning the entire app, and the video, on her. Melissa has to stop Jack before she ends up expelled, or else she can kiss her college dreams goodbye. [Stopping Jack would seem secondary to getting rid of the teacher who's having sex with a student.]

IF ONLY YOU KNEW, is a 60,000 word YA contemporary novel.  It will appeal to fans of ABC Family’s Revenge for it's theme of betrayal and The Social Network for it's  intellectual property battle.  Thank you for your consideration.  The complete manuscript is available upon request. 


High school kids have a reputation for being self-centered, but your heroine's dilemma should be whether to ruin the teacher by posting the video or by bringing the evidence to the principal or the school board, and she chooses the latter to protect the reputation of her classmate (presumably one of the classmates she wanted revenge on). Possibly this is how the story goes, but by stressing Melissa's motivation to keep from being expelled and ignoring the teacher's villainy, the query doesn't make Melissa a particularly sympathetic character.

A teacher is having sex with a student but the other students won't stop whispering about the time someone threw up on a basketball player? This just sounds like two different schools, high school and sixth grade.

I'm not sure how you mean the title, but unless "only you" is supposed to mean you and no one else, If You Only Knew removes the ambiguity.

Ostracization for throwing up would last only until someone spills soda on the front of his pants. I think Melissa needs to do something more humiliating.

Does Melissa have access to all her classmates' personal secrets? Or are the rumors to be provided by the classmates themselves? 


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

The student's reputation will be ruined?

No, probably not. The teacher, however, will be up on charges and, if convicted, face several years in prison. Once out, he or she will be a registered sex offender and will never work in a school or, quite possibly, anywhere else again.

A teacher having sex with a student is a felony if the student is under 18. It's also a violation of a moral code that, CNN aside, is very seldom violated. I'm speaking here as a teacher who has seen damn near everything happen in schools... but never that.

Putting in teacher/student sex makes this an issue novel. Once you've brought that issue up, it's hard to care about Melissa and her app.

I agree, Melissa doesn't come across as likeable.

Don't comp to movies and tv shows; the point of comping is to show the manuscript's potential place in the book market. Also, get "its" and "it's" straight.

And, finally: I'm not sure I see the need for the app. Gossip in schools already travels at the speed of light.

PLaF said...

I like the idea of the app posting the hottest gossip and the dirtiest dirt. In fact, I think Melissa could put it together as a “which is hotter/dirtier” app where people have to log in and choose which of two items is the best gossip. i.e. which is better gossip: Melissa throwing up on the senior or (insert juicy gossip topic #2).
Members can then log on and insert their hot gossip for comparison and voting. The app gets her off the hook for a while, but then the gossip starts to escalate. The topics get worse, more taboo, and there are rumblings of “invasion of privacy.”
Melissa won’t want to shut down the app because she’s making money hand over fist (either membership fees, posting fees, or good ol’ advertising fees), and the experience will not only get her into the college of her dreams but pay for it as well.
I think the villainy is misplaced on Jack. I think she should be her own worst enemy and Jack more of her conscience urging her to shut down the app before someone really gets hurt. Plus, maybe school and community officials are looking for the creator/operator of the app and threaten disciplinary action, etc.
That’s when things begin to go awry – the teacher/student sex tape comes up. Melissa, being a teen, can struggle with the “right thing to do.” Is it an invasion of privacy when the sex is consensual? Is the damage she’ll cause worth the $$$ she stands to make? She could ruin lives not just reputations, be exposed as the mind behind Chaos and get expelled, and so on.
Check out Disney’s “Zapped” for a lighter look at an app gone wild.

khazarkhum said...

This sounds like a fun novel, a teen girl gets gossipy revenge, until the teacher-student sex comes in to play. That should be the turning point of the book. At that point Melissa has to take criminal evidence to the authorities.

Or, you could leave the teacher-student sex out and have rumors of teacher-teacher sex (EWW! Gross! OLD PEOPLE SEX!), teacher-Mom sex (EWWWW! Grosser!) and so forth.

I say this because, like AR, I find the teacher-student sex angle to be a flashpoint that overwhelms the rest of the story.

Just the rumor alone may well end the teacher's career, and may destroy his reputation forever.

SB said...

I agree with pretty much everything that's been said so far. I particularly agree that the teacher-student sex tape is too serious for what you're using it for. If it's just a matter of ruining someone's reputation, it could still be a sex tape, but one where the sex wasn't actually illegal. (Many options here, like gay sex by the star quarterback, any sex by someone who made a point of being vocally pious, or, you know, something that's not a total cliche.) But if she has proof that a teacher had sex with a student and the decision she's making isn't about whether or how to alert the authorities, well, I'd stop reading.

Also, kids today are pretty up on using technology and social media to spread news/gossip quickly suggested, I think making it an anyway. An app certainly isn't necessary for that. Like PLaF app does more than simply share gossip would be a good idea.

CavalierdeNuit said...

This could be a cool read for teens. Is Jack like a JD (Christian Slater) type from Heathers, or is he more of a gay best friend type?

I think PLaF has it right.

Please please please get the its and it's straight.

SB said...

Oh dear, that last paragraph of mine got mangled somehow. I don't even know what happened. This is how it was supposed to look:

Also, kids today are pretty up on using technology and social media to spread news/gossip quickly anyway. An app certainly isn't necessary for that. Like PLaF suggested, I think making the app do more than simply share gossip would be a good idea.

Cil said...

What country is this set in? I know a lot of countries the legal age of consent is 16. In that case the student teacher sex is still highly unethical, but it might not be precisely illegal. I remember a case a couple of years back where a teacher quit and ran away with one of the students. The parents pressed charges, but couldn't make them stick as she was over the age of consent. Of course his career is over, but that is expected.

I will agree with the other comments that the student teacher sex could be toned down. A picture of a student kissing a teacher would be bad enough and possibly easier for Jack get his hands on. Also a sex tape of anyone, in my opinion, is enough to ruin the student's reputation. I am many years out of high school and I still would by horrified to find out someone had a sex tape of me that they were putting up online.

I also agree with EE that you should make the inciting event more embarrassing. In my second year of university I threw up on a classmate. It wasn't my proudest moment, but the discussion of it died out pretty quickly. I am sure you can make something more horrifying sounding. Although in my day people didn't have ready access to camera phones, so it might be a very different situation now.

As for the query, I would add something about Melissa's feelings toward the app before the sex tape part. If she starts second guessing it as soon as the first person gets ostracized because of the app she would be more likeable. I presume in the book she has misgivings about it early on, instead of just wanting to make money off it.

Good luck, it sounds interesting.

InkAndPixelClub said...

I think Blogger ate my previous comment, so let's try again:

What exactly is Melissa hoping to accomplish with the app? You have some stuff in there about turning it into a paid app and the coding looking good on her college applications, but neither of those seem crucial to the main plot. I was thinking Melissa created the app to make her fellow students suffer the humiliation of cruel gossip the way she did, except that you have her balk at the idea as soon as it looks like that might happen.

I agree with PLaF's suggestion about making the app more than just a gossip feed, as kids could just as easily create an anonymous source for school gossip through any number of other free methods online and they'd probably do that as soon as Melissa tried to charge for the app. Also agree that a student/teacher affair is too much of a hot button issue to be anything but the main plot of your story. Find something less controversial for Melissa to uncover if her main concern is going to be a single student's reputation and not the safety of the entire student body.

The query needs to make us care about Melissa, so start getting into the details on her life. Why has the gossip surrounding her puking incident (which I agree is way too small potatoes if your other major scandal is students and teachers having sex) made her life so hard? What did she lose from it? What specifically does she want to do to get revenge?

If getting into college, presumably a particular school , is such a big deal to Melissa that being unable to go is the worst outcome should she fail, it needs to be mentioned earlier in the query.

Change the name of the app. "Chaos" fits in with Melissa's vague revenge plans, but it doesn't sound like what you'd call a gossip app you want high school kids to download. Something direct like ”(School Name)Secrets" would make more sense.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

As far as the school system and the state ed departments are concerned, a teacher kissing a student would be taken pretty much as seriously as a teacher having sex with a student. The same line would have been crossed. I know of a case where a teacher lost his license for having parties at his house for a select group of students. He wasn't having sex with the students. But the line had been crossed.

(As it was explained to me, the line was crossed by inviting some students to the party, and not others.)

CavalierdeNuit said...

What if the teacher having sex with the student also tries to sabotage, blackmail, and/or have sex with Melissa? The plot thickens!

Jo-Ann said...

Teacher-student relations are a very sensitive topic for school systems, they have a responsibility to keep their charges safe from predators while in their care. One of my crit buddies is a teacher and commented on a section in my manuscript in which a teacher hugged a student at a classmate's funeral. He was adamant that no teacher would do that, it was not worth their job. A public gesture of condolence may seem innocuous, but it could be construed as a means of grooming a child for later abuse.

My point is that I wholeheartedly back the other commentors. Any teacher student interaction outside of school, no matter how innocent, is frowned upon, and children are aware that any hint of such relations is a matter which they are obliged to report. If Melissa fails to report it, she is complicit in a cover up. Jack sounds like he is exposing the affair for the wrong reasons and frankly comes across as a jerk. It also makes me wonder why such a tape exists in the first place. Teacher would not have been so stupid, and if the student felt this relationship was detrimental to his/her reputation, why make a record of it? If Jack taped it, then he's a peeping Tom. Euwwww.
Author, please start over.